WHEN WE HEARD the draw on the coach following our third round win over MK Dons we were delighted with what the Carling Cup had in store for us. That is no disrespect to Port Vale, simply that we were handed a home tie and not against the Premiership teams that are still in the competition.
There hasn't been a lot of contact with Port Vale in recent years because we haven't played them since early 1988 in the FA Cup 4th round, but we know it will be a tough because it always is. They were hoping to land a Premiership team, although I'm sure they would have preferred a home match.
The Port Vale team will doubtless lift themselves for the meeting, it is an opportunity for lads to play at the top level and make a name for themselves.
I've been told that ticket sales have gone well, which is no surprise to me. We've been on a good run of form and there have been some exciting nights here. The support is important to us and a big crowd is always appreciated by the players.
We've been doing our homework on Port Vale during the busy period we've had and they've been quite consistent in their team selections, with Sodje and Constantine up front. They had one game at Scunthorpe where they changed the shape to five in midfield, but generally they play a 4-4-2 with Smith and Whitaker in the wide areas and Sonner and Harsley in central positions.
We're often asked how teams will approach games and I felt Club Brugge would have a go early on. With regards to Port Vale, they are a team capable of attacking a game, but I think their shape will contain a little bit of caution as they will not want to concede early.
We will expect nothing less than a real battling performance from them with their two quality front players working hard for them up front.
As a home team there is no better release than the scoring of an early goal as it means the opposition have to open up. This is a cup tie though and we don't need any other reminders than the experiences we had last season - if you don't approach it right there is every chance you will lose the game.
Chris Hughton assesses the challenge likely to be presented by Port Vale in the 4th round of the Carling Cup tonight...